Tag Archives: James Bond

Rocks In The Attic #641: Blondie – ‘The Hunter’ (1982)

RITA#641I really dig these late-era Blondie albums, particularly this one and its predecessor, Autoamerican. They don’t sound too much like classic-era Blondie – well, Debbie Harry’s vocals do – but in terms of instrumentation and songwriting, they’re much closer to the emerging trend of New Wave bands than their pop-punk past.

The highlight of this record – aside from the cover photo, where Debbie Harry is wearing the craziest wig this side of Tina Turner’s appearance in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome – is the inclusion of the ‘lost’ Bond theme, For Your Eyes Only, originally recorded for the 1981 film of the same name. As far as Blondie songs go, it isn’t the worst thing they’ve recorded, but like Alice Cooper’s version of The Man With The Golden Gun, it’s definitely not Bond-worthy. You can understand why they were turned down by the Bond producers. Blondie were then asked to record the Bill Conti composition that was ultimately recorded by Sheena Easton, but declined the offer. That, to me, sounds like a much more exciting prospect, but unfortunately I can only imagine what it would sound like.

This was the final Blondie record until 1999’s No Exit. You can hear the band coming to the end of their natural life-cycle on The Hunter. A Debbie Harry solo career was dawning, with her first record, KooKoo, appearing a year prior in 1981. But more than anything, the split of the group was caused by Chris Stein’s illness with the rare auto-immune disease, pemphigus – which he would ultimately overcome before their late-‘90s comeback.

Hit: Island of Lost Souls

Hidden Gem: The Hunter

Rocks In The Attic #626: James Brown – ‘Get Up Offa That Thing ’ (1976)

RITA#626The collector in me breathes a heavy, internal sigh when I think about James Brown records. I’ve always liked the collecting aspect of music, almost as much as the tunes themselves. It started with Aerosmith, and I ingested everything greedily. Then I turned to AC/DC, same deal; then the Beatles. And on and on and on.

It’s too hard with James Brown though – he just has too many records. Wikipedia credits him with having sixty-three studio albums, fifteen live albums and forty-nine compilations (at the time of writing). Of course, there’s a lot of variability in there – a couple of diamonds for every half a dozen lumps of coal.

It’s always worth the effort mining his work though – this, his forty-sixth studio record, features one of his biggest hits, Get Up Offa That Thing / Release The Pressure. The song, released as a two-part single a couple of months before the album dropped, is a dancefloor smash and a worthy addition to the man credited on the sleeve as the Minister of New New Super Heavy Funk. He should add ‘doctor’ to his list of titles, given his medical advice in the song – ‘Get up offa that thing and dance till you feel better!’

RITA#626aI’d like to collect all sixty-three studio records but I think it might be too difficult, particularly considering my location in the world. I’m sure that I’d have a better chance if I was within driving distance of record shops in the Bronx, or other inner-city American areas. There’s always Discogs though, and that helped me greatly when I was collecting all of the James Bond soundtracks.

Perhaps I have another James-related quest in me. Five down, fifty-eight to go…

Hit: Get Up Offa That Thing / Release The Pressure

Hidden Gem: I Refuse To Lose

Rocks In The Attic #617: John Barry – ‘Diamonds Are Forever (O.S.T.)’ (1971)

RITA#617Sean Connery is back! Shirley Bassey is back! Director Guy Hamilton is back! Everybody’s back!

Bond producers Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli’s attempts to reproduce the success of 1964’s Goldfinger were thinly veiled. Get the original 007 back in the role, get Goldfinger’s director back, and the singer of its theme song. Get Richard Maibaum, the screenwriter of Goldfinger, to write the script, and instruct him to set most of the film in America, much like the 1964 film. Hell, even the subject matter of the film is similar – where the subject matter of Goldfinger deals with gold, Diamonds Are Forever deals with, erm, diamonds.

The only problem is that the film it isn’t anywhere near as good as Goldfinger. The plotting is messy, and the film feels a little lost at sea between the swing of the sixties, and the sleaze of the seventies. It’s lucky that the Bond producers were able to bring Connery back, as the film might have suffered more without his magnetic presence.

The previous Bond, George Lazenby, had been offered a contract for seven films but left after only one (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). In his place, the role almost went to American actor John Gavin – the heroic brother-in-law in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Gavin even signed a contract to play Bond, before the producers were able to lure Connery back, and Gavin was again set to play Bond in Live And Let Die before they changed their minds again and settled on Roger Moore.

Connery looks a little heavy this time around – and his ever-present hairpiece looks more obvious than it ever had, John Barry’s score comes a little too close to sounding like James Last in his attempts to replicate the lounge music of the Las Vegas setting, and Charles Gray’s portrayal of Ernst Stavro Blofeld loses all the menace that Donald Pleasance had brought to the role (admittedly this had been lost with Telly Savalas’ portrayal in OHMSS).

But I love Diamonds Are Forever regardless. It features my favourite Bond girl – the top-heavy Lana Wood – despite her role being very short and sweet. The theme song remains one of my favourites, and I was lucky enough to see Bassey perform it one year at Glastonbury in a medley of her Bond themes. Bond’s gadgets are reined in before the silliness of the Roger Moore era, and the film feels like one last hurrah for Connery’s 007 (although of course he would return to the role one more time in 1983’s Never Say Never Again).

The only drawback about the film is the stunt work, particularly in the mistakes they made with the Ford Mustang car chase. First of all, the thrilling police pursuit through the streets of Las Vegas is partly ruined by the fact that the sequence is clearly being watched by crowds of onlookers – as the producer’s were unable to close off the city’s streets from pedestrians.

RITA#617aSecondly, and most damning of all, the chase’s finale where Bond escapes the police by driving on two wheels through a tight alleyway was filmed incorrectly. They filmed the approach using two wheels on one side of the car, and filmed the shot of the car emerging from the alley on the opposite two wheels of the car. How terrible, and one wonders whether the continuity person – or in fact anybody working on this particular stunt – could ever hold their head high in Hollywood ever again. As a movie mistake, it’s up there with the Star Wars stormtrooper hitting his head on the Death Star doorway, or Charlton Heston supposedly wearing a wristwatch in Ben-Hur’s chariot race (an urban legend that has since been quashed).

Editors Bert Bates and John Holmes couldn’t have solved the mistake by reversing the film as both shots featured writing on buildings and advertisement hoardings, and so the only way out was a shot mid-alley which was made to look like Bond switched sides of the car mid-stunt. James Bond 007, licence to defy the laws of physics. As far as Bond mistakes go, this is even worse than choosing to soundtrack The Man With The Golden Gun’s barrel-roll stunt with a slide whistle.

RITA#617bDiamonds Are Fever’s lovable villains, the vaguely homosexual Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd deserve special mention, and not only for their great performance in the film as the murderous duo. Mr. Wint was played by actor Bruce Glover – father of Crispin ‘George McFly’ Glover – while Mr. Kidd was played by musician Putter Smith, bass player on sessions for, among others, Thelonius Monk, the Beach Boys and the Righteous Brothers.

Hit: Diamonds Are Forever (Main Title) – Shirley Bassey

Hidden Gem: 007 And Counting

Rocks In The Attic #597: Bill Conti – ‘For Your Eyes Only (O.S.T.)’ (1981)

RITA#597My childhood hero, the great Roger Moore died recently. My favourite Bond (it doesn’t matter who you think is the best, it’s the one you grew up with that counts) and one of the nicest celebrities I’ve ever encountered. A true gentleman, Sir Roger devoted his retirement years as a UNICEF ambassador, and really deserved his Knighthood for his tireless work for the charity.

I was overjoyed to see a double-bill of The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only at my local cinema last week, shown as a tribute to Moore’s passing. It was a worldwide re-release, as far as I can tell, although I’m not entirely sure why those films were chosen. Spy, I understand, but I would have thought other Roger Moore films would have been a better draw-card than For Your Eyes Only. I can only presume that those two films are the ones Moore was personally most proud of?

(There’s a nice bit of serendipity in that at the end of The Spy Who Loved Me, the credits promised that ‘James Bond Will Return In For Your Eyes Only’. However, due to the success of Star Wars, it was decided to make Moonraker next, in 1979, before they got around to filming For Your Eyes Only in 1981. I’d like to think that this is just a coincidence, and that the two films were chosen for other, better reasons than a nice bit of circumstance.)

Watching Spy and Eyes on the big screen was a real treat as I’d seen neither at the cinema before – my Bond viewing started with two films, Octopussy and Never Say Never Again, in 1983 when I was five years old. I’ve seen a few of the earlier films on re-releases – Dr. No, Goldfinger and a scratchy print of Thunderball – so it was good to add a couple more Moores to the list.

For Your Eyes Only used to bore me as a kid. It had its moments, but it was such a step down from Moonraker in terms of the things that are important to a five-year old. Of course, I now love it for its bravery in trying to pull the character back closer to Ian Fleming’s template, and away from the more embarrassing moments of Moonraker.

One thing that really struck a chord with me when I saw it at the cinema was how European it feels. The locations are all on continental Europe, aside from some underwater filming in the Bahamas, doubling for Greece. It makes a nice change to the globe-trotting Moore’s Bond does in each of the four previous films.

The other thing I hadn’t noticed before was its structure. Watched back to back with The Spy Who Loved Me, it’s clear to see that in many ways it’s a remake of that earlier film, in that it tries to duplicate some of the elements which made Spy so successful. Both films start with Navy ships succumbing to peril, both have a strong female lead, and both feature England and Russia racing towards the same goal.

It was also quite eye-opening to see how much mansplaining Bond does to Carole Bouquet’s Melina. Even though she and her family are experts in underwater exploration, Bond feels the need to mansplain the technical risks of what they’re about to do. Given the term’s entry into the English language over the last five years or so, I might have to rewatch all of the Bond films to see how much mansplaining goes on (and I’m guessing it’s not a small amount).

In terms of music, For Your Eyes Only is another non-John Barry affair, who would return to score Moore’s two remaining Bond films after this one. I’ve already written about how terrible a non-Barry soundtrack can be, but I much prefer Bill Conti’s Eyes soundtrack to Hamlisch’s efforts on Spy.

If you ignore the fact that a lot of the score sounds like something you might hear on Conti’s soundtrack contributions to the Rocky films, it isn’t too bad. Those pumping horns definitely don’t sound like the kind of brass lines that John Barry would write. I’ve also written about how poorly I rate the film’s title theme, but at least it’s not Madonna.

The soundtrack also features one of those rare things – another proper song that isn’t the main title theme. These pop up from time to time on Bond soundtracks, and they’re always quite interesting. This time it’s Make It Last All Night, by Rage, which is used to soundtrack the pool party at the start of the film. It’s a nice bit of sleazy pop (and secretly, I prefer it to Sheena Easton’s bland title song).

I was lucky enough to meet Roger in 2008 at a book signing in Auckland, where he signed my copy of his autobiography. They say you should never meet your heroes, but I have no regrets. Thankfully, my wife was quick enough to film me shaking his hand on the way out. I try not to watch this video too often as it always puts such a huge smile on my face (and I don’t want to dilute that).

Hit: For Your Eyes Only – Sheena Easton

Hidden Gem: A Drive In The Country

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Rocks In The Attic #580: Burt Bacharach – ‘Casino Royale (O.S.T.)’ (1967)

RITA#580The stain on the James Bond film series for almost forty years before it was remade, Casino Royale began life as Ian Fleming’s first 007 novel. When EON producers Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli optioned the film series of the books, Casino Royale was the only existing novel that slipped through their fingers. After the owner of the rights to the novel, Charles K. Feldman, failed in his attempt to persuade Saltzman and Broccoli to film Casino Royale, he took it upon himself to produce the adaptation.

In 1967, two months prior to the release of You Only Live Twice, cinema goers around the world were confused by this alternative James Bond film, a spoof on spy thrillers with little or no relation to Saltzman and Broccoli’s films. It’s a huge compliment to refer to it as a James Bond film, when it is in fact one of the worst films ever produced within the parameters of a larger film franchise. It makes The Phantom Menace look like the work of Christopher Nolan.

Five (plus one uncredited) directors worked on the film, and given that this isn’t an anthology film, that just shows what a mess of a production it was. A 1967 film starring Peter Sellers and Woody Allen at the height of their comedic powers should be great; instead it’s a disappointing headache of a film.

The only saving grace of the film is the soundtrack – a score by Burt Bacharach, featuring one of his all-time best collaborations with Dusty Springfield on The Look Of Love. Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass kick things off with some nice trumpet jazz on the film’s main title, but the remainder of the soundtrack is composed by Bacharach. As a whole, the soundtrack is very much of its time – something Mike Myers and Jay Roach spoofed so well in Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery. One gets the idea that just twelve months following the release of Casino Royale, the soundtrack would have sounded old-hat already. Looking back, it’s a nice piece of swinging London brought to life through the speakers.

Hit: The Look Of Love Dusty Springfield

Hidden Gem: Casino Royale Theme – Herb Alpert & The Tijuan Brass

Rocks In The Attic #513: Geoff Love & His Orchestra – ‘Big Bond Movie Themes’ (1975)

RITA#513a.jpgThere’s a reason that Geoff Love isn’t remembered as a great conductor. He and his orchestra had a tidy little earner recording easy listening versions of film themes, commonly released on the Music For Pleasure label. Anything that was cool about the original source material was stripped away, and all that remains is a schmaltzy version of something that sounds weirdly familiar. It’s the same result as you would expect if James Last recorded the collected works of Kraftwerk, or if Nana Mouskouri covered Joni Mitchell’s Blue.

Of course, the Bond films were full of the odd bit of lounge music, so some of it doesn’t sound too far from the truth. John Barry’s scores are full of tiny snippets of easy listening, usually to soundtrack the moment when Bond is about to bed an exotic looking broad. As a result, Geoff Love’s version of the Thunderball theme sounds like it could have been lifted right off the soundtrack to Barry’s Diamonds Are Forever score, particularly the sections set in the Las Vegas casinos. And a theme as eternally cool as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service could be covered by anybody and it’d still be a thousand times cooler than most other pieces of recorded music.

Still, record collecting gives you the opportunity to pick up little curios in charity shops like this for next to nothing. We always had a copy of Geoff Love’s collection of sci-fi themes next to our record player when I was growing up; it’s now long-gone but I’m sure I’ll find a copy of it one day for next to nothing.

RITA#513bWhilst trying to find a photo cover of Love’s Bond compilation to accompany this blog, I found that there are two covers. The original cover features the likenesses of Roger Moore, Sean Connery and Ursula Andress, while the second pressing – the version I have in my collection – has all of these faces either completely obscured (poor Roger) or completely altered. I’m guessing that Music For Pleasure didn’t do their due diligence when it came to securing the rights for what was essentially an unofficial cash-in on EON’s intellectual property.

Hit: The James Bond Theme

Hidden Gem: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Rocks In The Attic #489: Various Artists – ‘The Incredible World Of James Bond’ (1967)

RITA#489I flew back from Sydney last week. Trying to save a bit of money, I didn’t splash out on the usual airline offerings – a meal, alcohol, movies – and instead opted for the basic package. As it turned out, I didn’t miss the free movies as you could still watch a raft of free documentaries.

I watched a couple of good documentaries on the way out to Sydney five days earlier – Elstree 1976, about the bit-part players in the original Star Wars film, and then to follow on the geek-fest, I Am Your Father, a documentary about Dave Prowse, the actor inside the Darth Vader suit.

So I was happy to sit and watch documentaries on the flight back. This time, I opted for Everything Or Nothing – The Untold Story Of 007. Being a big Bond fan, it’s very rare that I ever find out anything I don’t know about the films. I’ve read a heap of books and consumed all the documentaries and featurettes on the Blu Rays (I now have the box set); everything else you see on TV tends to just be a very general overview of the films for the benefit of casual viewers.

Everything Or Nothing was different though. The documentaries on the Blu Rays are all sanctioned by EON Productions (the documentary takes its name from EON – Everything Or Nothing – Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman’s production company, set up to produce the Bond films), but Everything Or Nothing seems to have been produced independently. So instead of the official viewpoint you commonly get from EON, this was a warts and all retelling of the Bond story.

Interestingly, this meant there was a lot of content around the Ian Fleming / Kevin McClory lawsuits over the novel and film of Thunderball, and Sean Connery’s falling out with Broccoli towards the end of his tenure as an official Bond. Great stuff – and a really enjoyable watch for a lifelong Bond fan.

The Incredible World Of James Bond is a passable early compilation of instrumental Bond material. Some of the LP’s tracks are conducted by Monty Norman and John Barry, which adds an air of authenticity to the proceedings, but then these are cobbled together with renditions by the Leroy Holmes Orchestra. “Who?”, I hear you all shout in unison.

Hit: Bond Back In Action Again – John Barry

Hidden Gem: Jump Up – Monty Norman